Saturday, November 9, 2019

Celebrating the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

This afternoon, the Holy Father left the Casa Santa Marta and travelled to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran where, at 5:30pm local time (11:30am EST), he presided over the Eucharistic Celebration on the occasion of the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran (9 November)

Upon his arrival, before entering the Basilica for the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Pope paused briefly outside, at the lamp that commemorates the victims of poverty, where he recited a prayer with the faithful who were present: members of the ATD Quarto World Movement.  In this way, the Pope officially inaugurated the third World Day of the Poor which will be celebrated at various moments culminating with the Mass celebrated in Saint Peter's Basilica on 17 November 2019.

Prayer recited by the Holy Father, Pope Francis
outside the Basilica of Saint John Lateran

For the millions of children who are suffering from hunger pangs
who have lost their smiles but still want to love.

For the millions of young people who, without any reason to believe or exist,
seek in vain a future in this senseless world.

We pray, Father, send workers for Your harvest.

For the millions of men, women and children
whose hearts still beat strongly with the desire to fight,
whose spirits still turn them against the unjust fates imposed upon them,
whose courage demands the right to priceless dignity.

We pray to you, Father, send workers for Your harvest.

For the millions of children, women and men
who do not want to curse, but who love and pray,
work and unite themselves with each other
so that a land of solidarity might be born.
A land, our land, where every man
gives the best of himself before he dies.

We pray to you, Father, send workers for Your harvest.

So that all those who pray may be heard by God and
receive from Him the strength to eliminate misery
from a humanity that is made in Your image.

We pray to you, Father, send workers for Your harvest.

Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the celebration of the Mass

This evening, during this celebration of the Dedication, I would like to take from the Word of God three verses to give you, so that you can make them the objects of your meditation and prayer.

I feel that the first verse is addressed to everyone, to the whole diocesan community of Rome. It is a verse from the responsorial psalm: A river and its tributaries bring joy the city of God (Ps 46:4). The Christians who live in this city are like the river that flows from the temple: they carry a Word of life and of hope capable of making the deserts of hearts fruitful, like the torrent described in Ezekiel's vision (cf Ez 47) brings life to the desert of Arabia and heals the salty and lifeless waters of the Dead Sea. The important thing is that the stream flows out of the temple and heads towards lands of hostile appearance. The city cannot but rejoice when it sees Christians becoming joyful proclaimers, determined to share with others the treasures of the Word of God and to work for the common good. The land that seemed destined forever for aridity reveals an extraordinary potential: it becomes a garden with evergreen trees and leaves and fruit with medicinal power. Ezekiel explains the reason for so much fruitfulness: Their waters flow from the sanctuary (Ez 47:12). God is the secret of this new life force!

May the Lord rejoice in seeing us on the move, ready to listen with our hearts to his poor who cry out to Him. May the Mother Church of Rome experience the consolation of seeing once again the obedience and courage of her children, full of enthusiasm for this new season of evangelization. Meet others, enter into dialogue with them, listen to them with humility, gratuitousness and poverty of heart ... I invite you to experience all this not as a something requiring great effort, but with a spiritual lightness: instead of getting caught up in performance anxieties, it is more important to broaden our perception in order to grasp the presence and action of God in the city. It is a contemplation that comes from love.

To you presbyters I want to dedicate a verse from the second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians: No one can lay a foundation other than that which is already there, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11). This is your task, the heart of your ministry: helping the community to always be at the feet of the Lord to listen to His Word; keep her away from all worldliness, from bad compromises; so as to guard the foundation and the holy root of the spiritual building; defend her from rapacious wolves, from those who would like to make her deviate from the way of the Gospel. Like Paul, you too are wise architects (cf 1 Cor 3:10), wise because you are well aware that any other idea or reality we wanted to place at the foundation of the Church in place of the Gospel, could perhaps guarantee us more success, perhaps immediate gratifications, but would inevitably involve the collapse of the whole spiritual building!

Since I was elected Bishop of Rome I have known many of you more closely, dear presbyters: I have admired your faith and love for the Lord, your closeness to people and your generosity in caring for the poor. Get to know the districts of the city like no other and cherish the faces, smiles and tears of so many people in your hearts. You have set aside ideological oppositions and personal protagonists to make room for what God asks of you. The realism of those who have their feet on the ground and know how the things of this world go cannot prevent you from flying high with the Lord and dreaming big. God bless you. May the joy of intimacy with Him be the truest reward for all the good you do every day.

And finally a verse for you, members of the pastoral teams, who are here to receive a particular mandate from the Bishop. I had to choose it from the Gospel (Jn 2: 13-22), where Jesus behaves in a divinely provocative manner. In order to shake the obtuseness of men and induce them to make radical changes, sometimes God chooses to act strongly, to break the situation. Jesus wants to produce a change of pace, a reversal of direction. Many saints have had the same style: some of their behaviours, incomprehensible through human logic, were the result of intuitions aroused by the Spirit and intended to provoke their contemporaries and help them understand that my thoughts are not your thoughts, as God says through the prophet Isaiah (Is 55:8).

To understand today's gospel account, we need to underline an important detail. The sellers were in the pagan courtyard, the place accessible to non-Jews. This very courtyard had been turned into a market. But God wants his temple to be a house of prayer for all peoples (cf Is 56:7). Hence Jesus' decision to overturn the tables of the money changers and to drive away the animals. This purification of the sanctuary was necessary for Israel to rediscover its vocation: to be light for all peoples, a small people chosen to serve the salvation that God wants to give to all people. Jesus knows that this provocation will cost him dearly. And when they ask him: What sign can you show us to (prove to us that you can) do these things? (Jn 2:18), the Lord replies by saying: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up (Jn 2:19).

And this is precisely the verse I want to propose to you pastoral teams tonight. You are entrusted with the task of helping your communities and pastoral workers to reach all the inhabitants of the city, identifying new ways to meet those who are far from the faith and from the Church. But, in providing this service, bring this awareness, this trust into it: there is no human heart in which Christ does not want to and cannot be reborn. In our lives as sinners, we often find ourselves turning away from the Lord and extinguishing the Spirit. We destroy the temple of God that is each of us. Yet this is never a definitive situation: it takes the Lord three days to rebuild his temple within us!

No one, however wounded by evil, is condemned on this earth to be forever separated from God. In an often mysterious but real way the Lord opens new glimpses into hearts, desires for truth, good and beauty, which make room for evangelization. At times mistrust and hostility can be encountered: we must not allow ourselves to be blocked, but rather we must guard the conviction that God needs three days to raise his Son in the heart of mankind. It is also the story of some of us: profound conversions that are the fruit of the unpredictable action of grace! I am thinking of the Second Vatican Council: Christ died for all and man's ultimate vocation is effectively one and divine; therefore we must hold that the Holy Spirit gives everyone the possibility of being associated with the paschal mystery in a way that only God knows (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

May the Lord grant us the grace to experience all this in our evangelizing action. May we grow in faith in the Paschal Mystery and be associated with his zeal for our home. Enjoy the journey!
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